Glasses are big business. Lenses, frames and designer products make the eyewear market worth $90 billion globally, expected to rise to $140 billion by 2020. Reports suggest that sunglasses account for about 40% of this market, placing the global sunglasses market value at around $36 billion. This booming industry has, unfortunately, been coupled with a massive increase in counterfeiting.
In 2014 the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) seized over $1.6 million worth of counterfeit sunglasses, out of a total of $1.2 billion seized in counterfeit goods. Within the report it was stated that apparel (including sunglasses) accounted for 28% of all counterfeits.
If we consider these seizures representative of the counterfeit market we can estimate that sunglasses account for 0.13% of all counterfeits. In Europe, the estimated counterfeit industry value is $461 billion. Therefore we can assume that counterfeit sunglasses are worth 599 million dollars in Europe. The scope of potential losses is huge when we consider that the global counterfeit trade is worth an estimated $1.7 trillion.
It’s true that most counterfeits will not be sold for the full retail value, so revenue to actual counterfeiters will be less that the numbers stated above. Some would argue that these are purchased by people actively seeking cheap counterfeits and are not the core customer targeted by eyewear brands, however this may not be entirely true. The aforementioned OECD study looking into Ray Ban suggested that while a proportion of the counterfeits were priced between the $10-$20 the vast majority were priced between $100-$120. A real pair of Ray Bans is available from $200, the study suggest that customers believe they are buying a real product for this amount of money, and would purchase a genuine product if they were aware. This is further reinforced when we consider that a 2014 report suggest that most people in western countries would not consider buying a counterfeit product (90% in the UK).
Fakes pose a serious health risk to consumers as inferior sunglasses rarely have proper UV protection and studies have found that sunglasses without UV protection are actually worse for people than wearing no sunglasses at all. A recent BBC report consulted eyewear and medical professionals, confirming that the use of inferior sunglasses can cause cataracts. They also found a high number of the public were in fact using fake sunglasses and were unaware of the damage they could be causing.
Additionally, fakes unknowingly bought damage the brand value in the eyes of the consumer and potential investors. Forbes recently reported that one of the key things to the success of an eyewear brand is not so much the design or the even the build quality but it was brand value itself. This makes marketing much more efficient and allows companies to increase profit margins.